The Element: Chapter 2


The Element: A series of articles to explore and improve the methods used for meetings between small teams striving to perform at an expert level.  Culture Spy Syndicate (CSS) Agents Rusty and Test Drive meet with the Cobbler to find out who is on the team. Talent Scout is the codename for The Cobbler, a master at creating identification documentation.

Rusty contacted one of the few Cobblers remaining at the Culture Spy Syndicate (CSS). The trade-craft of creating and maintaining identification documents, whether they are real or forged, has changed over the years. Many find it sufficient to look up a person’s social media footprint on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or any other number of sites to develop a person’s profile. To Rusty, that would be like limiting the technical resource for a project to a narrow number of documents available on the web. Details from diverse sources are important to any solution, and the details for this project would require the selection of a very special team.

An alarm popped up on his phone reminding him of a meeting. It happened to be the second Tuesday of the month, which meant a 7:00 PM Go-Tech meeting at Maker Works in Ann Arbor. Test Drive looked forward to these monthly meetings that showcased a presentation of creations, either looking to share knowledge or draw from the experience of the audience to overcome a sticking point or just pull some diverse ideas. These are the folks that go beyond ideas and get into the action of creating and inventing, the higher level of learning on Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Test Drive got into Rusty’s car and turned south on State Street in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It was 5:00 PM, so they had time for a meal before the meeting. Mark’s Mid-Town Coney Island was the destination. Sharing food and coffee got them both talking about the project board ideas that would eventually allow project content to be mobile and used throughout the office.

And then Test Drive said, “so you have a new project to study 5-man teams. Let’s review where you are.”

As Rusty pondered the question for a moment, he started thinking about the reason for why people meet as a team in the first place. He knew that they would be focusing on teams in a workplace setting, but his conversation with Freelance drew on parallels to military, police and family.  This is where he liked to play, breaking down knowledge into their most basic parts and figuring out why the pieces were assembled in their orientation. Rusty was also an opportunist when it came to adding a little spice to the secret sauce. What was the reason for the interest, he wondered? Ah, the senior agent is interested in playing a team role!  “Just made the cobbler request for the team, looking to pickup 4 additional agents.”

“I am here to help you, and already exerted a little influence with the Cobbler to have my dossier inserted into the mix,” said Test Drive.

“Sounds like an offer that I can’t refuse.”

“This happens to be a topic of deep interest to have documented in our knowledge-base. Sad that we run 5-man teams every day and have very little of our tribal knowledge that is documented for the use of training or improving our methods.”

“You know one of my favorite quotes, if it’s not documented, it’s like it never happened!”

“So we have a whole bunch of knowledge being stored in the memories of CMF minds, and most new element teams don’t have that knowledge available to them. Without knowing the mistakes, our teams make the same mistakes that have been made in the past.”

“You got that right, and now it is time for the Go-Tech presentation.”

Test Drive jumped up and dragged his prototype project board to the front of the room. He requested ideas that would hold project documentation, white-board backer and a method to hold full size drawings if necessary. The conversation erupted from the audience including etched plexiglass, melamine, and a few other recommendations. He returned to his seat and handed the project board to Rusty, but this time there was a manila folder taped to the back with “The Element” written across it.  Both scanned the room knowing that Cobbler was present somewhere in the audience, but everyone looked like a normal guest. And there he was, sitting in the back row.

“Hello Talent Scout,” said Rusty. “How the hell did you get the team dossiers put together so quickly, and how did you get them stuck onto the back of our project board while sitting in the back row?”

“I am a scary judge of team character, and only the shadow knows about my document stealth techniques.”

“Very funny. Let’s grab a private room so you can brief us on what we have to look forward to.”

The three agents moved into a private office and Test Drive slid a 6 inch knife out of his belt and cut the envelope seal.

“An Ontario MK3 Navy Seal knife.  Good choice,” said Talent Scout.”

“Always have to be ready for these heavy bond envelopes,” said Test Drive, as he threw the papers onto the table, and they were blank on both sides. Many times when the Cobbler takes intelligence out of the office, they use invisible ink printing that can only be viewed with specially issued glasses.  Test Drive took off his glasses, hovered the lenses over the paper and started reading out loud.

“Test Drive and Rusty, good. What was the reason for Freelance being on the team?”

“Quite often we will get the mission client onto the team to participate first hand in the solution,” said Talent Scout.

“The Merchant, codename Coach, has a background with locus of control and team psychology,” said Test Drive.  “A Merchant agent has expert level techniques to acquire, create, document, categorize, and store intelligence information about human performance.   I also see that T is here.  Interesting that your wife was chosen to be on the team Rusty.”

“She offers a solid approach with her industry meeting knowledge, and has quite a bit of knowledge about empathy,” said Talent Scout.  “Remind us again how she got her codename.”

“You know very well why she chose it,” said Rusty.  “Short arms and can’t reach anything in the upper shelves, like a T-Rex.  Always needs a assistance.  You should have seen her response when the kids help out with the dishes and put the wine glasses on the top shelf, prompting a very stern scolding!”

“We have a team,” said Test Drive. “Prepare for the kick-off meeting, Rusty.”

Design Thinking [Empathize] Chapter 3 is up in our next issue. You are on the team, so please comment on this issue to add additional experiences that can be drawn from to create a solid project definition.


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